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Thu 30 Apr 2009 10:58 AM

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Ministry vows to act over 'illegal' passport retention

Companies that keep passports of workers will not be tolerated - Ministry of Labour.

Ministry vows to act over 'illegal' passport retention
ILLEGAL MOVE: The Ministry of Labour has vowed to clamp down on companies retaining passports of workers.

The practice of companies retaining employees’ passports will not be tolerated, a senior UAE Ministry of Labour official has said.

The retention of workers’ passports by employers was illegal, Yousuf Abdulghani, executive director, policies and strategy at the ministry, said.

Some firms, especially in the construction industry, continue to withhold foreign workers’ passports despite instructions issued by the Ministry of Interior warning employers not to hold passports for any reason.

“It’s illegal,” Abdulghani told Arabian Business on the sidelines of the GCC Leadership Summit on labour management in Dubai on Wednesday.

“The government will not tolerate companies that withhold passports,” he said.

He said it was the responsibility of the Ministry of Interior to ensure the practice did not happen.

Certain insurance companies required employers to withhold passports under insurance schemes to protect firms against workers who abscond, according to Alex Zalami, senior advisor for the Ministry of Labour.

He said other measures needed to be introduced to protect employers against the risk of workers leaving the country.

Venu Rajamony, Consul General of India in Dubai, said: “To use it (a passport) as an instrument against a worker is wrong.

“They (companies) should not do it, it’s against the law.

The UAE is signed up to the International Labour Organisation's (ILO) Convention on the Abolition of Forced Labour, under which the retention of workers’ passports is a violation of the agreement.

jaan 10 years ago

Ministry of Labour representative should visit all private firms (esp. construction company) so they will know that our passports are also held by our employer. For me, as a staff, I don’t mind giving my passport to my employer. If something happens to me, then definitely the employer should take the responsibility. Another thing, it’s good also if the passport is with us only because we know that this is essential document if we are applying for a bank loan, insurance, etc. For Employers who’s holding the employees passport, once the employee asked their passport, the employer should not ask why they want it. I guess they don’t have the right to ask because it’s not their passport… Much better really if Ministry of Labour visit (of course without notice) and interview the employees.

andrew mcdonnell 10 years ago

Not be tolerated, I am puzzled. When we get an inspection at our office the first thing the inspectors ask to see is the passports. We have around 100 employees, they count the passports then give them back to us to put in the safe. We as employers are expected to keep the passports by the Labour Inspectors. Last inspection was 3 weeks ago.

Pradeep Naik 10 years ago

Fine we give passport to employees, but when they run away, we make compliant no action from any Govt depts. Visa money, absconding fees, visa deposit, return ticket, all goes where? If an employee is not qualified to do his job & he get along with another misguiding friends, they run away & others employ them at no cost & use them with all risk, pay less or no pay. Bottom line UAE Government should be clear on what they want from expats, not just day by day bring in new so called rules for expats. Do not forget this country's foundation is not oil & reexport money from expats who trusted in economy & Govt. It is money of all foreigners. Hold on to expats or all buildings & bridges will be used by someone without visa & passport requirements. Rats & cats ( Tom & Jerry Town)

Srivatsa 10 years ago

I know not only retains the passport but to return the passport they require cash deposit and a collegue as a guarantor. During holidays, when we planned for as trip to Oman two of my friends could not come with us company refused o give the passport.

observer 10 years ago

Perhaps Mr AbdulGhani would like to visit the Sharjah Airport Free Zone and ask their legal counsel why they wanted to hold my passport unless AED 3,000 was submitted as a returnable deposit for my passport so that I could hold 'my' passport ( My government as issuer of the tavel document is the ultimate owner). I need my passport in order to carry on my business around the GCC so that I can travel at will! Their actions are strictly illegal! I can understand why they do it for most of the employees that they sponsor however professionals who need to have the ability to travel at short notice on their firms business need to have the documents at all time.......

Andy 10 years ago

I have not yet seen the government announce any major fines for those violating rules for withholding passports. What are the fines for the companies and individuals for withholding passports? What companies and individuals have been caught and fined?? If so, what were they fined?? If none of this is addressed one is to assume that what was mentioned in the article is hearsay or BS.. The government never fails to mentions traffic violation fines and how many were ticketed that violated traffic laws so why not mention those that violate the law by withholding passports illegally??

clifford 10 years ago

all these statements are just an eye wash. every time there is a conference or some official visits a western country, these kind of statement comes up. the ministry of labour hotline 800665 itself advocates holding of passports and they claim that it is under labour law. so who is right here.....the people who are recruited to advise the workers via the hotline (who claim to strictly interpret the labour law) or the official. THERE IS CONTRADICTION. open up a complaint cell on MOL hotline and start putting hefty fines for this blatant violation of human rights. As to the the comments by mr. pradeep regarding visa fees etc, it shows the employers inability to provide conducive working atmosphere if the employee changes a job. you go to any developed western country or india etc and there you will find people working for the same employers even for 20 years at a stretch.........not to mention......passports are not withheld.

kumar 10 years ago

"Some firms, especially in the construction industry, continue to withhold foreign workers’ passports despite instructions issued by the Ministry of Interior warning employers not to hold passports for any reason" Why blame construction companies alone as if others are holy cows. I would say 95 - 99% comapnies hold back passports. Even the " FREE ZONES " which are govt entities hold passports as a mater of routine except the senior management or owners pp. This issue has been discussed / debated and statements issued every few months but till date it is only in print but practice is just the opposite.

Najam Saqib 10 years ago

After reading all the comments, I was wondering whether there is any UAE law against passport retention or not. I am looking for some documentary proof, so that we can take up the matter with our organization. please advise in this regard thanks & regards